There’s epok epok, kali pap and even curry puff which can be confused with the Chinese versions and the baked ones with a layer filo pastry style flaky skin. Everyone has their idea of what to call them and even the Singapore created triangle crusty rendition once invented at the Haig Road muslim bakery, lends to the name calling confusion. But, everyone also have their own idea of what a good one should be. I have mine of course, but this one today, baffles me. It does not check out in many of my boxes but yet I could not stop eating it, and I wasn’t hungry (a common trick to practise when reviewing food). The Malay style epok epok should have a nicely crispy skin, made with a decent portion of rice flour. This should contrast well with the, almost, soft curried potatoes and that wedge of egg inside. The mouthfeel and contrast of flavour from both skin and filling, is the mojo I always look for.
When I was told Kak Ti’ah’s epok epok is a “by appointment and advance booking only”, I had to rush in. My “makanmata” or food cop made the anonymous order and what I saw at the stall was a flurry of elbow grease work in motion. Two staffers were busy rolling the dough and gingerly placing the spicy stuffing of curried potatoes with egg and chilli sardines in. “We make everything by hand” Kak Ti’ah adds “and I have never made this before I started this stall”. They sell the usual Malay rice and noodle sets and dishes each morning and lunch and “not many eat this after 3pm, so I tried making epok epok”. Every customer that showed up, had a confirm-order message on their phone and they cart home bags of it, as $1 each. The occasionally walk-in stragglers have to depend on prayer for and extra one or two pieces she can afford to spare.
Back to why this one baffles me. Firstly, it’s the pastry skin. It has an arrestingly freshly fried and soft allure- it feels easy on rice flour and with a light touch of butter. Every piece is freshly done by her husband Salim and each one is probably already spoken for. The potato fillings was spicy and just short of mushy soft was on point and the sardines had a touch of tomatoes with the sambal and chilli kicker. I only wished they pressed more onions in to contain and contrast the spiciness and texture. You can understand why I could not stop eating this with a not so empty stomach- the texture, flavour, soft crustiness and the subtle contrast, just made me ask “why I can’t stop at one ah?”
I know such dishes can easily be replicated perfectly with machines AI (whatever it is), but one reason I adore this aspect of our makan roots is- the alluring imperfection of deliciousness. It’s like when Liverpool plays Man United, you never know what can happen, but you are riveted and entertained all the way.
01-36, Seah Im Hawker Centre
5pm to 8pm, close on Sundays
For advance orders call : 91214262